The term recovery in this blog can refer to recovering from a mental illness, addiction, trauma etc.

Journaling in recovery can be a helpful tool to guide your healing process. You may use a journal to record your struggles through the recovery process or to identify accomplishments in healing. Journals are even useful to help you work through painful or difficult emotions that may be hard to annunciate to a counselor or therapist, but easier to jot down on paper/or digital device. No matter what you decide to put in your journal, the writing process can be therapeutic in a variety of different ways.

Why Journal in Recovery?

There is great power in one’s ability to write. Even if you aren’t a master of words, you may find that writing things down, the good and the bad, is healing and conducive to your recovery. Many treatment centres begin teaching the journaling process by having clients write in a “gratitude journal” quoting things they are thankful for and reasons to be happy each day.

Journaling in recovery helps with:

Alleviating stress.

Providing a new perspective on an otherwise difficult thought process or situation. Guiding trends or progress towards a goal.
Maintaining accountability and honesty.

Getting in touch with emotions.

Part of the recovery process is deeply focused on teaching you how to appropriately connect with your emotions and embrace change. A journal can help you to open up and better understand the feelings you are having without actually forcing you to mention those feelings in an open chat or counseling session. Keeping a record of your experiences, good and bad, can help you to see progress in your recovery too! Placing your thoughts and feelings on paper can help you to learn how to better cope with the emotions that are at the heart of your recovery experience.

Types of Recovery Journals

Perhaps you will keep all of your emotions or thoughts in a single journal. Or, perhaps you will have several types of journals based on the form your writing or emotions are to take. Different types of journaling provide a different outlet or experience for you. For instance:

A diary can provide a glimpse into how you were feeling at a given moment or during a given situation. Diary entries are almost always kept private and are for you to look back on and see growth.

A reflection journal can provide a glimpse into how you felt throughout the day and what struggles you were able to overcome. Many treatment centres encourage patients to keep an evening reflection journal, writing down their choices and behaviors daily. This is a great way to keep your recovery process close while allowing a time of reflection and relaxation at the end of each day.

A gratitude journal allows you to look back at the things you are grateful for each day in recovery. Later on you can see how your attitude changed over time and how the things you were grateful for throughout your recovery evolved.

A goal journal can help you to keep a track of the goals you have both in recovery and in everyday life and how you are taking action to reach those goals. Looking back at this type of journal, you can see what you maybe could have done better, or where you went wrong if you did not achieve a specific goal.

There is No Right or Wrong!

The most important thing to remember, when keeping a recovery journal, is that there is no right or wrong way. You can write however you want— full sentences, half sentences, half thoughts. It’s your journal, and it’s very likely that as you progress through the recovery and healing process, so too will the manner in which you write.

What to Write About

You can write about anything you like in your journal. Your diary may include a date, time and your feelings for the day. A reflection journal will likely include an event that occurred during the day, your feelings during the event, and maybe a reflection on what you could have done differently. Your gratitude journal could include things you are grateful for throughout the day, or just one major thing you are grateful for each day.

Studies show that journaling exposes you to the disclosure of emotions with less fear of being criticized or having fingers pointed at you. This means that your decision to write in a daily journal, or a weekly journal (we don’t want you to feel obligated to write daily if you don’t feel compelled to do so), can help you to work through emotions, reduce depression and grief and heal.

Recovery Journal Prompts

Some days, you may just not have the energy or the desire to come up with a topic for your journal—that’s ok! When creative juices aren’t flowing, or you simply have nothing on your mind to write about, consider one of the following recovery journal prompts:

What scares you the most in recovery?

Do you have a plan for Tomorrow? What is it?

How do you feel about your recovery today?

Are you worried about something? What is it? How are You Coping with Worry?

Dear past me…

Dear present me… Dear future me…

You can’t change people…but you can understand them better. Who do you wish you could better understand? Why?

If you weren’t in recovery, what would life be like today?

We are constantly evolving and learning. Write down the top 10 things you have learned in recovery as of today.

What are you most proud of?

What makes you smile? Make a list of 10 things that are sure to make you smile.

Gratitude diary

How does your body make you feel? What can you do to feel positive in your skin today?

What is unconditional love like for you? What does it look like? How does it feel?

What is enough for you?
What I really wish others knew about me is…

At work, I felt really ____________ when _____________ did ______________. Because…

Tears are words that need to be written…___________________ always brings tears to my eyes.

I admire these 5 people the most because….

How to Write Therapeutically

Write whatever comes to mind each day or whatever feels like something you need to express. If you feel the need to express joy, great! If you feel sad, okay! Your journal can be structured into a gratitude or reflective journal, or you can have a loose or flexible journal that simply conveys whatever you want to write about at a given moment. That choice is yours!

Here are some suggestions for writing therapeutically:

Set aside time to write in your journal daily or every other day. Do what works best for you! We recommend 20-30 minutes but you may be more comfortable starting out with just 10 minutes or you may find you take a longer time to reflect and create. The important thing is to set aside time.

Pick a place that is free from distractions where you can focus. You may want to write at a desk. Wherever you choose, it should be comfortable and private.

To maintain consistency, and to get a better gauge of how you organize your thoughts, we encourage you to attempt to write something every day. This helps to build a routine and will encourage you to work the writing into your schedule even as you become busier in life.

Keep your recovery journal handy throughout the day to jot down ideas.

Set aside time to review your journaling once every few weeks or so. Reflect on your entries and consider how you have grown. Consider sharing your journal with your accountability if you feel comfortable to do so to remain transparent and accountable.

Journaling is a self-reflective, inner experience that will help you grow emotionally.

Your brain is like a computer you can’t shut down the computer without shutting down the tabs .Journaling is a way of shutting down the tabs and helping your mind process trauma, an event or the day at the end of the day, it may even help you sleep better, once you have processed your day.

My practice is currently closed: 

For support and guidance please contact SADAG 0800 567 567

From June l 2023 I will be available again.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with me for an online counselling session. Let’s together create an environment where you can connect with yourself again, an environment that fosters and encourages authenticity. An environment where you can follow your gut and get to know what it looks like.

After doing an intake I might be able to help you with a few sessions using BWRT (Brainworking Recursive Therapy) read more about BWRT on another blog on my website:, or we will use another technique depending on your unique needs.


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